Part of a series that takes an analytical look at the current broadcast pilot season and some of its trends and heroes.
Once upon a time, there was a pilot season ruled by classic fairy tales and characters, real-life stories and books, with a dash of iconic brands and foreign formats.
Projects based on source material are very popular this pilot season, with public domain properties emerging as the hot novelty in the arena with two pilots, ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Grimm, featuring popular fairytale characters like Brothers Grimm’s Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin as well as evergreens the Evil Queen and Prince Charming. Also based on a public domain property is ABC’s drama pilot Poe, about Edgar Allan Poe investigating mysteries in 1840s Boston, while another ABC drama pilot, Revenge, is a contemporary re-imagining of Alexandre Dumas, pere’s The Count of Monte Cristo.
Overall, books were the most ubiquitous source material among this year’s crop of broadcast pilots. The trend started during pitch season, when projects based on books were a hot property, and carried over to pilot season, with a significant portion of the scripts based on books ordered to pilot. That includes ABC’s dramedy pilot Good Christian Bitches, the NBC comedy pilot Are Your There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea, the Fox comedy pilot The Council of Dads, Fox’s drama pilot Weekends at Bellevue, Fox’s Bones spinoff The Finder (based on The Locator series of books), NBC’s comedy pilot My Life as an Experiment, CBS’ comedy pilot How to Be a Gentleman, the CW’s drama pilot The Secret Circle and CBS’ untitled Ed Redlich/John Bellucci pilot (inspired by J. Robert Lennon’s short story The Rememberer). Additionally, NBC’s Wonder Woman and Fox’s Locke & Key are based on comic books.
Some of the books — Weekends at Bellevue, Are You There Vodka?, My Life as an Experiment and The Council of Dads — are autobiographical. They are based on real-life people and experiences, also hot source material this pilot season. Other pilots part of that trend are CBS’ untitled sports show sitcom inspired by ESPN personality Colin Cowherd’s outspoken sports talk show, The Herd with Colin Cowherd; CBS’ Home Game, a family show inspired by former NFL star Mark Schlereth and his family; and another CBS sitcom, the untitled Rob Schneider comedy, based on his home life. Additionally, the Fox comedy pilot Tagged is loosely based on the life of Shiya Robowsky.
Foreign formats are having a strong showing this season with five pilots: four based on British series – ABC’s drama Identity, NBC’s drama Prime Suspect, NBC’s comedy Free Agents and Fox’s comedy Outnumbered – and one based on a German format, CW’s Danni Lowinski.
Meanwhile, reboots of American series, which had been very popular the past few seasons, seem to be going out of fashion, with only one representative, ABC’s Charlie’s Angels, a carryover from last season.
Also out of favor as pilot source material are Web-based properties, such as Twitter feeds and blogs, which were red-hot during buying season, with several such projects igniting bidding wars among the networks. But, with the trend’s poster child, CBS’ Twitter-based freshman comedy series $#*! My Dad Says, not doing so well, the interest in Web-to-TV conversions waned, and none of the scripts based on such properties made it to pilot. That includes two CBS Twitter feed-based comedies, Dear Girls Above Me and Shh … Don’t Tell Steve, ABC’s comedy based on the Awkward family Photos blog/book, another ABC comedy based on the Dealbreaker blog and an ABC comedic drama project based on the blog The Lost Girls.
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